Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Almost every Nigeria cuisine is cooked with a pinch or handful of pepper, just so` it will add heat of spiciness to the food. A fact is, pepper accentuates food flavor and serve as a savory spice.

Back in the days when I was in school, I prepare my food using pepper and onion only as a condiment. And Because the taste of tomatoes isn't appalling to me, most of the time, I cook without tomatoes. Another reason could be because pepper and onion are in abundance in Sokoto; There, Garlic, onion, and pepper are grown.

My school, Usman Danfodiyo university, has a vast arable land. The most noticeable is a 7km distance from the main entrance to the actual university premises. This 7km distance is a stretch amidst a widely open Sahel savanna, with areas of shrubs, wood trees, and a bridge to make way through the Sokoto-rima river channel. Also, are several disperse settlement, who are predominantly fishermen and farmers. I always appreciate the view of their onion farm. It is a beautiful site.

Being close to these farmers gave students, especially those staying in the dome access to fresh farm produce at convenience; This contributed to my love for pepper and onion. At the time, I know of only red bell pepper known as tatashe and chilling peppers as tarugu in the Hausa language, which could be any small to medium-hot pepper and; barkono (dried chili pepper). .

There are over 50 types of pepper around the world with different degrees of heat and flavor. Some are popular for their warmth, while others are popular for their taste. All peppers come in a variety of colors, and their degree of heat is measure in units with a Scoville scale (SHU). Habanero pepper is a pepper famous for its hot spiciness around the world, the heat range from 100,000 – 450,000 SHU. However, it's not the hottest pepper; it is even far from it. Carolina Reaper is the hottest pepper with the heat of 1,641,000 -2.2 million SHU.

In Nigeria, we grow four types of pepper, these are

1. Bell peppers; bell peppers known as Tatase, are available in a variety of colors, red, yellow, orange, green, and purple. They are grown in jos, Kaduna, and kano; the red and green ones are readily available, while orange and yellows are mostly grown in home gardens.

On the Scoville scale, red bell pepper is the least pepper with a heat. They are used for their fruity sweet flavor and color to glam food mostly. Bell pe pper is also called sweet pepper. They are great for stir fry and dressings.

These peppers don't like to much heat, so for maximum flavor, shallow fry or add it towards the end of cooking. Red bell pepper has an intense color red, which makes it a natural food color. Paprika is made from red bell pepper.

2. Jalapeno peppers known as shombo. They are a slimmer version of bell peppers with mild to moderate heat and a mix of a sweet vegetal flavor. They’re in green and red color. The green ones are unripe, while the reds are ripe. Both are good flavoring agent.

The hint of heat and sweet vegetal flavor makes them the right choice for finger chops and food that needs to be spicy a little, though it depends on the quantity used. Also, their intense color makes them suitable food coloring. They are grown in Kaduna, Katsina, and jos...the intense the red color, the better the pepper flavor.

3. Scotch bonnet is grown in Sokoto, kebbi, and some part of zamfara state. Though scotch bonnet originated from the Caribbean, it is now widely grown in West Africa.

In Nigeria, scotch bonnet refers to Sokoto pepper or Atarugu. This pepper is known for its sweet flavor and heat; there is a striking resemblance between a habanero and scotch bonnet pepper. You need to be familiar with chilling peppers to differentiate these two.

However, scotch bonnet has a fruity sweetness than a habanero pepper. They both belong to a higher classification of species known as Capsicum Chinese. It has a spectacular color and flavorful aroma; Scotch bonnet is excellent for different African cuisines.

For comparison, the scotch bonnet heat rating is 80,000 – 400,000 SHU.

4. Habanero pepper, known as Jos pepper or bird pepper, is famous for its heat. As the name implies, it is grown in jos and some part is the hottest Nigerian pepper. When ripen, it can change from green to yellow to scarlet red. Other ripen varieties are yellow, orange, and peach.

This pepper is related to scotch bonnet peppers, which is sometimes confused for. When you want an in-depth heat, jos pepper is a better option.

It's great for hot sauces, dishes, and soups.